(If you missed yesterday’s Holy Saturday post, you might want to read it before reading today’s post. Happy and Blessed Easter to you!)
As the three of us approached the garden, I got worried. During the Sabbath, some of the men were saying that the stone had already been rolled over the entrance to the tomb. If what they said was true (and they were sure that it was), there was no way we could move it. I said that, and Salome said, “Well, who can we get to roll the stone away?” We were still talking about it when we came the garden. Because it was still pretty dark, we were almost at the tomb before we saw what had happened.
We just stood there. Nobody said anything. Nobody had to. I knew immediately what had happened. Those dogs who had murdered the best man who ever lived had taken his body out of the tomb so that we couldn’t give it a proper burial. They had taken it somewhere and were probably doing horrible things to it in order to disgrace him even more. They hated him so much that they weren’t satisfied with killing him, they had to shame him too.
The other girls just stood there, but I ran. They said, “Mary, stop! Where are you going?” But I didn’t stop. I just shouted, “I’m going to tell Peter.” If anybody would know what to do it would be Peter. Somebody had to tell him (and the others) that they had taken his body.
I ran all the way. My side burned like fire and I looked like a fool, running into the city like that, but I didn’t care. The men were still in that same upper room, and when I got there I had to stop and catch my breath. At the top of the stairs I pushed the door, but it was locked, so I knocked and called. I heard the bolt slide and John bar Zebedee stood there, blinking into the morning light.
John’s Story, Part I
This is how John might have told his story.
After what happened, we thought they’d come after us too. We talked about it all night long. We were staying – hiding, really – in the upper room of the house that belonged to John Mark’s father. I didn’t really believe they were coming after us, but that’s what everybody kept saying. Well, everybody but Peter. He wasn’t saying anything. I don’t think he said a single word.
And we kept talking about Judas. I could hardly believe he did it. I mean, I looked up to him, at least at first. How could he do it? Thomas kept saying that Judas knows where we are, and when the Sabbath’s over, they’ll come for the rest of us. We ought to get back to Galilee as soon as possible. We needed to disappear.
But like I said, I didn’t really believe it … until somebody started banging on the door like they were trying to knock it down! I almost jumped out of my skin. Everybody got real still. I can still remember how big their eyes were – except Peter’s. He never looked up from the floor.
Then we heard Mary’s voice. “Let me in!” I drew back the bolt and opened the door. She looked wild – her hair was blown back and her head covering was missing. She pushed right past me and asked, “Where’s Peter?”
As soon as she saw him she said, “The stone isn’t there. Mary and Salome – they stayed. I came back to tell you. I ran the whole way. They’ve taken his body, and we don’t know where they’ve put it.”
That got Peter’s attention. He seemed to think for a moment, and then it was like something boiled over in him. He got up and went outside without saying a word. I followed him. When he got to the bottom of the stairs, he began to run. So I ran too. I knew where he was going and, since I knew Jerusalem a lot better than he did, I knew how to get there faster. (Not to mention I’m fifteen years younger than him!)
I got to the tomb and it was just like Mary said. The stone was laying off on one side like it had been tossed there by some kind of giant. Everything was perfectly still. There was no one around. I bent down and looked into the tomb.
Then Peter got there, huffing and puffing. He sort of pushed me aside and went right in. Then I went in too. And it was just like Mary said. His body was gone. But it was the weirdest thing. The burial shroud and the sudarium – the head cover – were lying on the slab. The sudarium was folded up perfectly. Why would anyone take his body and leave the burial cloth? And who would take the time to fold up the sudarium? It didn’t make any sense, but what else could have happened? That was the real question – what else could have happened – but we didn’t know enough to ask it.
We walked back by the way I’d come. I had all kinds of questions, but Peter still wasn’t talking. When we got to the house, Peter just kept walking. I asked him where he was going. He didn’t answer. I asked him what I should tell the others. He said, “That’s up to you.”
Mary, Part III
I followed Peter and John out of the door, but they ran and it was all I could do to walk. As I walked down the street, I could feel the darkness descending on me, like it had in the old days. I was so afraid that I was going back into that.
By the time I got to the garden, Peter and John were already gone. None of my friends (Mary, Salome, Joanna – none of them) were there. It was just me, alone again, just like it used to be. I started to cry. After a few minutes I bent down and looked into the tomb and I saw two men in there. Before I could say anything, one of them asked me why I was crying. Or maybe both of them asked, I can’t remember. A kind of fog had descended on me. I said something, something stupid, like, “They have taken my Lord away and I don’t know where they have put him.”
I turned around and the rising sun all but blinded me. There was a man standing there, just a few feet away. He said the same thing the other men said: “Woman, why are you crying?” I thought – it doesn’t make any sense now, but I thought – that maybe he was the one who took the body, so I said to him, “Sir, if you’ve carried him away, tell me where you put him and I’ll go and get him.” I know it was a stupid, but it was all I could think of.
Then he said, “Mary.” Just that. Just “Mary.” And I knew it was him. I looked again and it was like the darkness lifted. I said to him, “Rabboni!” It didn’t even dawn on me to ask him what had happened. I just knew he was there. He was alive. I grabbed hold of him, but after a moment he said, “Don’t hold on to me. Go tell my brothers!”
I didn’t argue. I went – my third trip along that route and it wasn’t even 8:00. I didn’t really understand what was going on, but I knew everything would be alright. I wasn’t afraid anymore. My master was here! As long as he was here, I would be fine. Everything would be fine. I went back to the upper room – Peter wasn’t there yet – but I told the rest of them: “I’ve seen the Lord,” and told them what happened. They didn’t believe me. Then Mary and Salome and Joanna and the others came and told them the same thing. They still didn’t believe them either. Then Peter came back. He didn’t say much. He just said, “It’s true. I’ve seen him too.”
John’s Story, Part II
Everyone got really excited. We were all talking at once (except for Peter, who was still really quiet). But Thomas said, “This is crazy. You’re crazy. I’ve got to get out of here before I’m as crazy as all the rest of you.” He went out and slammed the door, and I pushed the bolt again and locked it.
For the next few hours, everybody was talking to everybody else, all at the same time. We tried to get Peter to tell us what had happened, but he only said, “It’s true. He’s alive.” Sometime later, while we were all talking, there was a … a sudden change. I don’t know how to describe it. It’s as if the candles flared brighter. It was as if music had just played. I think we all felt it; I know I did. And then there he was, standing right in the middle of us. It was him. At first we were so startled we couldn’t move. But he laughed; laughed and said, “Shalom.” Then he said, “What – you think I’m a ghost?” and he laughed again. He showed us his hands and his side. It was really him. The marks were there. He took some fish and ate it, and laughed again.
We gathered around him. I touched him. I guess I wanted to make sure he was real—that I wasn’t just dreaming it. But he was as real as ever – almost more real, if you know what I mean.
Epilogue to John’s Story
(1 John 1:1-3) That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked at and our hands have touched—this we proclaim concerning the Word of life. The life appeared; we have seen it and testify to it, and we proclaim to you the eternal life, which was with the Father and has appeared to us. We proclaim to you what we have seen and heard, so that you also may have fellowship with us. And our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son, Jesus Christ.
As I think you know, for the past several years I’ve been studying the private papers of Lloyd C. Douglas, who wrote The Robe. This piece is in that same genre, and it’s incredibly hard to write: a narrative that stays close to the text but reads like a story, making the biblical characters speak our language. So many things can go wrong with this kind of writing! Readers can complain that your version of Mary or John or Peter doesn’t agree with theirs, or that the dialogue is unnatural, or that it’s not entertaining enough, etc., but I really like this, Shayne. It gave me a fresh way of viewing the old, old story, and yet remained close to the text (as I know you always do). Thanks for taking the risk to write something like this.
Appreciate your kind remarks. I actually enjoy writing this kind of thing and would do more, if I had the time.
Hope you had a joyous Easter!